I want to pick up our series in the book of Revelation by returning to chapter 11. We find there two, as we have stated, unusual witnesses. John writes concerning them, And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. [Rev. 11:3 KJV] There seem to be many questions concerning these two. There has been much speculation concerning them as well. I want to examine what the Bible says about them in detail. First notice,
- Their Duty:
The one who grants authority to these two witnesses is unidentified, but it has to be either God the Father or Jesus Himself. Notice they are, “Witnesses”. This is the Greek, martus and indicates a witness literally, judicially, or figuratively. Twice, (Acts 22:20;Rev. 2:13) it is translated as martyr. This word is used in the New Testament because so many who shared their faith in Jesus in the early days of the church did so at the cost of their lives. There are many places today where faithful witnesses are paying the ultimate price for sharing their testimony as well. There are those who interpret “witnesses” here allegorically. This cannot be since this word is always used in the New Testament to refer to persons. These are two individuals, not two covenants or people groups as has been taught by some. There are two witnesses because the Bible requires the testimony of two people to confirm a fact or verify truth [Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Matt. 18:16].
It will be their responsibility to prophesy. In the New Testament prophecy has to do with more than predicting the future. In fact, its primary meaning is to “speak forth”, “to proclaim”, or “to preach”. They will warn that the disasters occurring during the last half of the Great Tribulation are from God, and not the result of “Global Warming”, or some other natural explanation. They will warn that God’s final outpouring of judgment and eternal hell will follow. At the same time, they will preach the gospel, calling people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. The period of their ministry is twelve hundred and sixty days, the last three and a half years of the Great Tribulation period. Notice secondly,
- Their Attitude:
Notice they are, clothed in sackcloth. Sackcloth was rough, heavy, coarse cloth worn in ancient times as a symbol of mourning, distress, grief, and humility [Gen. 37:34; 2 Sam. 3:31; 1 Chr. 21:16; 2 Kings 6:30]. These two witnesses will wear sackcloth as a symbol of their great sorrow for the unbelieving world. It would seem they will also mourn because of the desecration of the Temple, the oppression of Jerusalem, and the rise of the Antichrist.
- Their Identity:
The identity of these two witnesses has been a point of disagreement among Bible teachers and scholars for centuries. In all honesty, any of us who teach the Word of God must admit that we are not told precisely the identity of these two individuals. Verse 4 says, These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. This of course refers to Zechariah’s vision and prophecy recorded in Zechariah 4:1 – 4. While the book of Revelation is replete with allusions and direct references to the Old Testament, everything here is associated with the Old Testament. In Zechariah’s vision the lampstand and two olive trees are clearly two individuals; Joshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel. Both Joshua and Zerubbabel overcame insurmountable difficulties. The Lord through Zechariah makes it very clear that they were not able to do this by their own might and power, but by the Holy Spirit [See Zech. 4:6]. Like Joshua and Zerubbabel, the two witnesses of Revelation 11 will face great trials and attacks from the forces of Antichrist, but will overcome in the same manner; namely the power of the Holy Spirit. They will be divinely enabled to carry out their assigned task as we shall see shortly.
Please notice what some may see as a discrepancy between Zechariah’s vision and that seen by John. In Zechariah 4 there is one lampstand. In John’s vision in Revelation there are two. Why is this? Is there some sort of contradiction? There is no contradiction. The candlestick or lampstand seen by Zechariah represents Christ, so there can be only one. The two olive trees represent the two witnesses in John’s vision, however the two witnesses will also have the illumination or light of Christ shining through them, so they are also represented as two candlesticks or lampstands. Who exactly are these two individuals? I emphasize the fact that they are individuals. They are not two systems, two covenants, or two people groups as some have taught. They are two individuals, empowered by the Holy Spirit, who will live on this earth and minister before the Lord from about the mid-point of the Great Tribulation, almost to the end. Who are they? There have been many suggestions as to their identity made by Bible teachers for years. Let me list them here:
- Moses and Elijah
- Elijah and Enoch
- Elijah and John the Baptist
There may be others, but these are the most commonly taught. Teachers who hold to these various theories have good reasons for believing them. How one identifies the two witnesses depends largely upon how the entire book is viewed. For example, those brethren who have taken an historical view of Revelation have named such men as John Huss, Pope Sylvester, Waldenson, and the two testaments. Those who take a futurist view, the one I personally subscribe to, have not really reached a consensus as to their identity. I can tell you that if identification of the two witnesses were essential to understanding the overall message of Revelation, we would have been clearly told who they will be. Let me say here that I personally believe they will be Elijah and Enoch. It is also possible the actual answer will be, none of the above. If we are going to approach the scriptures honestly, which is the only way to handle them, then we have to admit that it is possible that the two witnesses will be two individuals who have ministries and anointing very similar to prophets of old, but who will be in fact individuals different from any who have lived before.
As far as their identity being that of Elijah and Enoch, there is a very interesting statement found in the ancient apocryphal book, The Gospel of Nicodemus which reads, “I am Enoch who pleased God, and was translated by him. And this is Elijah the Tishbite. We are also to live to the end of the age: but then we are about to be sent by God to resist Antichrist, and be slain by him, and to rise after three days, and to be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord.” This book of course was not included in the Canon of scripture, but is interesting nonetheless. Elijah is definitely predicted to have a Last Days ministry by Malachi, Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. [Malachi 4:5, 6 KJV]
Elijah and Enoch are the only two individuals who have ever left this earth without dying. Every person ever born prior to the catching away of the Church has an appointment with death [See Heb. 9:27]. It would seem that Elijah and Enoch will return to earth to keep this appointment. They have been living in Heaven for centuries now in natural bodies. How is this possible? It is a miracle of divine preservation, as God has an appointed task for these two to fulfill. Both Elijah and Enoch were prophets of judgment. The lives of both Enoch and Elijah are parallel in every sense. I believe that Elijah will definitely be one of the two. Enoch will likely be the other.
- Their Power:
John continues, And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. [Rev. 11:5, 6 KJV]
There apparently will be those who want to harm these men and silence their testimony. If they attempt to however these two have power to stop any aggression. How will they do it? 1) By fire from their mouths – Even though Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins in their popular, Left Behind series depict the two witnesses as having literal fire coming out of their mouths and burning up their enemies, I do not believe this will be the case. Rather, their words will be like fire as they pronounce the judgments of God on the earth and those who dwell on it. [See Jer. 5:14; 23:29] 2) By having the ability to stop rain from falling – The text seems to imply that they will pronounce a drought on the earth that will last for three and a half years, as was the case in Elijah’s Old Testament ministry. [See 1 Kings 17:1 – 18:46] 3) By having the power to turn water to blood – This is what has led many to conclude that one of the witnesses will be Moses, as he turned the waters of Egypt to blood. [See Ex. 7:19 – 25] 4) By smiting the earth with various plagues – Again, this is reminiscent of that which occurred in Egypt during the days of Moses.
- Their Death:
Any person with an assignment from God, with a work to do, is invincible. Our God is great in keeping and delivering power! However, toward the end of the Great Tribulation, the ministry of the two witnesses will come to an end. John writes, And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. [Rev. 11:7 – 10 KJV]
In the second half of the Great Tribulation Satan will enter this one referred to here as, “The beast who ascends out of the abyss.” The figure here is not Satan, as Satan is depicted as a “dragon”. [See Rev. 12:3, 9] “The Beast” of Revelation is the Son of perdition, the man of sin, the Antichrist. We will get a much clearer picture of this one in chapters 13 and 17, but are given an introduction here as to his origin. While he is a man, he will be empowered by Satan. He will be a demon-controlled, maniacal, Satan empowered dictator with an agenda to absolutely destroy every vestige of the witness of Christ. At the end of the three and a half year assignment of these two unusual witnesses, the Lord will allow the beast to make war against them and kill them. Their ministry will be headquartered in the city of Jerusalem.
Notice the spiritual condition of Jerusalem at this time. Even though our Lord was crucified, buried, and rose again there, during the days of the Great Tribulation it will be so overran with sin and filthiness, it will be spiritually likened to wicked Sodom and ancient Egypt. By the modern miracle of satellite TV, all the world will see these two lying dead in the streets. The hatred for these two men will be so strong that the powers that be won’t even allow them to be buried. They will lie in the streets for three and a half days. It will be like Christmas time for the world as they will rejoice and make merry, and even send gifts to one another. The two witnesses will torment the people of the world with their cries of repentance and their pronouncements of coming judgment. Finally their voices have been silenced. The world will breathe a collective sigh of relief. Their rejoicing will be short lived however!
- Their resurrection:
As the future scene plays out before John he writes, And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. [Rev. 11:11, 12 KJV]
Much to the consternation of the world, after three and a half days the two witnesses whom they thought were gone for good suddenly are resurrected! Think about it, I am sure there will be up to the minute coverage of the assassination of the two witnesses. I wonder what NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, C-SPAN, BBC, and all the others, will say when these two formally dead men live again and it is all captured live on world-wide television! The Antichrist will have been boasting about how he had killed these two. All the world has been looking at their bodies as they lay in the street. They know they are dead. There will be no room for trickery. Listen, the world didn’t witness Jesus’ Resurrection, but they will these two! Verse 11 speaks of the resurrection of the two witnesses, verse 12 speaks of the rapture of the two witnesses as they are told to, come up hither. They will ascend to Heaven in a cloud of the glory of God just as Jesus did, and the Church will.
- Their impact:
And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. [Rev. 11:13, 14 KJV]
The resurrection of the two witnesses is punctuated by a great earthquake that will cause great destruction in Jerusalem, and kill some seven-thousand people! It is interesting to note that the Greek here literally reads, “names of men.” This indicates that perhaps many well-known, prominent people will be killed, possibly even some members of Antichrist’s government. The language indicates a genuine repentance before the Lord will occur in the remnant of Jews.
While this will be good news for those who repent, the rest of the world will be faced with the stark reality that more and more severe judgments are on the way with the onset of the third woe and the sounding of the seventh trumpet, which will usher in the bowl or vial judgments.
Join us next time for more.